Forging Leadership

Forging Leadership


Great organizations enable, and encourage, great leaders to develop. And they do so with purpose. By design.

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:

Forging Leadership

Are leaders made, or born?

The answer is: Yes.

Truthfully, some people are born to lead. They are seemingly gifted with all the charisma, comeliness, talent, wisdom one can possible have – everything they need to inspire others to follow them to the ends of the earth. Right out of the box.

And – some leaders are definitely made, driven into leadership through necessity, experience, and sheer force of will.

We don’t choose the forge that tempers our fates. If that were so, I daresay that most of us would have chosen another path, other than the one that ultimately sets us on our life’s journey.

But that’s not to imply that all leadership development is by chance, entirely by accident.

Great organizations enable, and encourage, great leaders to develop. And they do so with purpose. By design.

So – How does one go about building a healthy environment for leadership development?


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How the Sausage is Made – The Guts of a Podcast

How the Sausage is Made – The Guts of a Podcast

How the Sausage is Made

You’ve listened to Serial and Startup. You’ve had a great idea for a podcast, bouncing around in your head for some time now, that has remained – as yet – unrealized.

Perhaps it’s a lack of free time, or the lack of access to good equipment holding you back; or possibly, it’s just a lack of talent (no! not that!).

Putting together a decent podcast isn’t exactly a moonshot. But it does require some planning, patience, and execution to do well.

Where to Start

The obvious place to start is to have something interesting to say. This should be intuitively obvious – until you suffer through some abysmally bad podcasts, and realize that many podcasters seem to have skipped this step altogether. Before investing loads of time, and effort, into a podcast no one will listen to, be sure that what you have to say will have a receptive audience.

But maybe before even deciding this – ask yourself: why am I doing this? Is it for love of the subject matter? Putting myself out there for more exposure, as an expert? Creating buzz? Understanding your motivation, explicitly, will help you bring focus and clarity to the project.

Decide on Format, and Periodicity

Once you convince yourself that you do have a compelling concept, the next step is to decide upon the format of your ‘cast.

Will your podcast have guests? Will it be moderated? How will you produce it? Do you have time to create it daily, weekly, monthly, or just whenever you can get to it?

You’ll find that creating consistently compelling content is a never-ending challenge. It’s a bit easier if you have someone help you produce and put the ‘cast together, but the fact remains: podcasting takes a lot of time. Even – and especially – when you do everything yourself; but only if you want something enjoyable, engaging, and consumable at the end of the process.

Tools of the Trade

Alright. You now have a concept, and a production schedule. Now what?

Well, at its most basic, all you really need to create a podcast is a microphone, a recorder, and a relatively noise-free environment.

But in order to do well, you will need the best microphone that you can afford, a reliable computer and recording / editing software, and a room with acoustic properties that are conducive to echo- and noise-free recording.

Personally, I’ve had good experience with microphones from Blue (I particularly like the Blue Yeti). But there are many quality mics available, so shop around for a mic that suits you and your setup. Expect to pay $100 and up for a good, professional mic.

I use Apple’s GarageBand or Audacity (available on Mac and PC) to record my ‘casts, and to do post-production editing. I’ve sometimes used Google Hangouts on Air, but the quality of service is highly dependent upon your connection to YouTube and the internet, so this is not a primary recording source for me, if I can help it.

The best recording environments are, naturally, professional recording booths. If you don’t have access to a professional booth, I’ve found that music rehearsal rooms work well, as do library study rooms. In your home, you can turn a walk-in closet, with lots of hanging clothes, into a very workable ad hoc studio. The key is to find either a large room, or a room with soft surfaces on the walls to absorb echoes.

Extemporaneous or Scripted – What Method’s Best?

I’ve produced moderated podcasts, where there was no script, recorded live and in the moment. I’ve recorded short extemporaneous dialogs, off the cuff, for daily thought-of-the-day ‘casts. I’m currently creating a daily, scripted podcast.

I’ve found all of these approaches to be workable – provided, you’re in command of your subject matter, and are a decent presenter.

But, for anything longer than a minute or two, especially when you’re the only person on the ‘cast, I’ve found it best to script the show, before hand. This does a number of things:

  • Your content will be focused
  • You’ll avoid rambling asides, and
  • You’ll be able to accurately time the length of your ‘cast by the word count of your script (roughly, 125 words per minute of spoken text, 150 if you talk fast).

You should experiment with a style that fits your format, and your presentation style. I know some podcasters who create their cast, unscripted, first – and then transcribe later. I’m more comfortable scripting everything ahead of time, doing a run through, and then recording a “keeper” take. Do whatever works best for you.

Fix it in Post

Even if you completely “nail” your recording, there will be something you’ll want to correct or edit, post-production. In fact, you’ll most likely than not spend much more time in post-production with your ‘cast, than it actually took to record in the first place.

Good podcasts are much more than just your core content. Bumper music, introductions, transitions, commercials – all of these are to be found in almost every podcast you find on iTunes and Stitcher.

You should also invest the time into creating a recognizable format for your cast, that is unique and individual to your ‘cast brand. Listener feedback, spoiler-free segments, question and answer – providing a consistent, readily recognizable format promotes listener affinity to your brand.

This includes not only a set of identifiable audible program segments, but also supporting image content, that provides an additional, visually unique tie into your podcasting brand.

Putting it All Together

Now, in isolation, a podcast is just an audio recording. But in reality, a podcast should be considered a thematic series of recordings, a recognizable audio brand, with a method to distribute its content on the web. You’ll to have a mechanism to share what you’ve created.

At a minimum, you’ll need storage to save your recordings, that is web accessible, along with a properly formatted RSS XML feed that can be submitted to iTunes, Stitcher, or other podcast aggregator. A Dropbox account will work just fine for storing your podcast files, but really, any web storage will do. I host my audio files on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) host.

I won’t try to duplicate the steps needed to create a valid RSS XML feed for your podcast. iTunes has a very good guide that will work with most podcast aggregators – you should check it out.

I highly recommend that you create a branded web site, that is devoted to your podcast – to improve discovery for your program, to have a place to host upcoming content, and to house the transcripts of your podcasts. Take a look at my 300 Words, 2 Minutes site as an example.

That’s About It

I’ve really only skimmed the surface. And, even though I create a podcast episode every day, I’m still learning, and still experimenting.

To sum up the guts of what goes into a podcast:

  • Decide upon your concept, and why you’re creating your ‘Cast
  • Create a programming schedule
  • Devise a show format
  • Decide upon your tools, and where to record your ‘Cast
  • Record your ‘Cast
  • Edit your ‘Cast
  • Stage and Submit to one or more podcast aggregators
  • Profit!

I’d love to know your podcast success / war stories, and what podcasts you listen to regularly. Let me know in the comments.

Know When to Manage Up – And Down

Know When to Manage Up – And Down


Career success is predicated largely upon the way you manage your relationships. Successfully navigating between the people you report to, as well as the people who report to you, is a fine balancing act. It isn’t a static system.

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:


Transitioning into a new position is challenging on a number of different levels.

Getting to know your new colleagues and direct reports… settling into a new routine… learning where the coffee is located… it’s exciting, stressful, and regenerative, all at the same time.

A transition that is usually overlooked, but vital to making a smooth entry into a new job, is the transition from managing up, into managing down.

What do I mean by this?

Well, throughout the interview process for your position, you’ve been catering to a coterie of folks who held your career in their hands: hiring managers, search committees, HR staff, your new boss. Your focus has been on selling yourself to these decision makers and influencers. Managing up, as it were.

But now, you have the job. And you must transition into managing new relationships with the people who work for you: managing down.

Perhaps this…

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Following Your Passion

Following Your Passion


What is success, if at the end of the day, we’ve thrown away all the people that have made our successes possible?

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:

Follow Your Passion

“Following your passion” is more than simply the Siren call of startup culture, and self-actualized, self-help books.

It is an explicit commitment on your part to chart, and follow, a life course; to do what it takes to make you a whole and happy person, regardless of what it takes to get there.

It is a commitment to eschew anything that would detract and distract from attaining your own personal Nirvana.

Being committed and passionate doesn’t excuse you from being sensible, reflective, and considerate. In fact, committing to your passion requires that you be even more intentional in your self assessments, and reflecting upon how your pursuit of happiness affects everyone else around you; not the least of which are the friends, family, and loved ones that support and maintain you in your passion.

Usually, they are the first to be ignored, and relegated to the sidelines – because of their unconditional love and support.

What happens when…

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Strategy and Tactics

Strategy and Tactics


When all the elements of great strategy and tactics align, you have companies like Amazon and Southwest dominating their respective spaces. I really don’t need to name those companies that fail this test; you already know, and avoid, them.

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:


Most of us approach our jobs in a very task-oriented fashion. We begin the day, with a list of “to dos” to be performed, and laying out some plan of attack to get our work done.

Completing these atomic elements of work is largely how our performance is judged. Anything that gets in the way of this is a distraction.

For the most part, we nominally consider these tasks “our job”; but, they are actually only the tactical means by which we do our job, and should be part of a larger strategy, dictating why we do the things we do.

When our strategies aren’t in alignment with the tactics we use to carry out that strategy, we’re doing tremendous harm. Maybe we’re touting a strategy of strong customer service, but purposefully implementing bait-and-switch tactics, or understaffing customer call in lines. Or, we espouse a strategy of being a low-cost leader, but implement a high-cost model of…

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Save the Date – Conway Geek Breakfast

Save the Date – Conway Geek Breakfast


Save the Date!

The next Conway Geek Breakfast happens Thursday, May 28, at 7 am, at Bob’s Grill in Conway, AR!

Geek Breakfast is a monthly gathering, where attendees congregate over bacon, eggs and plenty of coffee to discuss topics like social media, digital marketing, design, programming, and ways to better their communities.

Conway Geek Breakfast is normally scheduled the last Thursday of each calendar month.

We look forward to seeing you on the 28th!

Coming hungry… and social!

Creating Wonder

Creating Wonder


Why I love technology – the anticipation that today, I might discover something new, and wonderous.

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:

Wonder Code

Throughout my career as a software developer, I remember distinct moments of wonder.

Times when I quite literally asked: “how did they do that?

My first professional engagements were performed on the original IBM PC, running under MS-DOS. As I was learning my craft, I noticed that almost all professional apps displayed their screens instantaneously; while my screens painted painfully slowly, character by character. What was I doing wrong? And more importantly:

How did they do that?

Turns out, in order to display screen content blindingly fast, one had to use undocumented, unofficial areas of the PC’s memory space; by writing directly into the PC’s display memory, screens popped, rather than crawled.

The next time that I had a similar sense of wonder, I was working on web applications. In 2005, I witnessed the Google “Suggest” feature for the very first time (you probably know it best as the drop down box, with suggested search terms as…

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